Sony STR-DN1030 A/V Receiver
Price: $500 At A Glance: Wi-Fi • AirPlay • Bluetooth • DLNA • Windows 7 Play To • Proprietary room correction
Sony may not be the first brand you think of in connection with audio/video receivers. The company has always offered competently designed models, some of which provide good performance and value for the money, yet somehow it hasn’t basked in the limelight enjoyed by the market-leading brands. That may be about to change with the STR-DN1030. Sony needed a way to attract attention and has found one: This receiver is a wireless triple threat with Apple AirPlay, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi connectivity. And all of that is dongle free. To enable the wireless features, you needn’t spend more for accessories or plug anything into anything.
Of course, all that wireless flexibility comes at a price. You’re not going to find all those things in a budget receiver. Wait a minute—our fact checkers are tapping me on the shoulder. What? What? This receiver sells for $499?
Another one of my comfortable illusions shattered. Coffee break. I need to gather my wits.
Just the Facts
In some respects, the STR- DN1030 does resemble a budget model. The depth dimension is on the low side of average, and the receiver weighs less than 20 pounds. The front panel is divided into three horizontal planes, giving it a shapely appearance, with three knobs: volume, input select, and tone/tuning. The remote control is better than average, with buttons differentiated by size, shape, and color, and a clean, sensible layout. The only change I’d make would be to move the volume rocker from the bottom to the middle—it’s hard to hold onto the remote when your thumb has to slide that far down. I should add that the ribbed texture that runs down the remote’s convex back helps you keep your grip in most positions. If you don’t like the remote, try the Sony Media Remote app for iOS.
According to the manual, this seven-channel receiver musters 100 watts per channel RMS into 8 ohms with two channels driven and total harmonic distortion of 0.09 percent. With a 1-kilohertz test tone, that rises to 110 times two with 1 percent THD, or 150 watts and 10 percent THD. The Web specs and press release mention a 145-watt spec with varying details. I asked Sony to clarify and was told that the definitive spec is 145 watts into 8 ohms with one channel driven at 1 kHz and 0.9 percent THD. See our measurements for seven-, five-, and two-channel-driven numbers.
There are receiver brands that offer every licensed goody possible. Sony licenses the usual Dolby and DTS surround decoding suites but sticks with proprietary room correction; no Audyssey. What you will find, fortunately, is Faroudja DCDi Edge video processing. Internet radio options, including Pandora, Music Unlimited, Slacker, and vTuner can be tapped via Sony Entertainment Network (SEN) access on the receiver.
Wired connectivity includes five HDMI inputs and one output, all on the back panel. There’s also an HD-capable component video output along with two component ins. Composite video switching is limited to two ins and two outs, and there are no S-video jacks. This should be enough to support an average system unless you’re loaded with legacy components. This receiver does not support full multichannel analog inputs or outputs but does sport an extra subwoofer output.
Sony hedges its bets on network and iOS connectivity. There is a wired Ethernet connection in addition to the built-in Wi-Fi antenna. And if you prefer to connect your iPhone or iPod to the front-panel USB jack—which is coupled with a composite video jack—you can do so.
Of course, you’ll be restricted to this connection for an iPod nano or classic, which have no wireless capabilities. Using the cable lets you control the portable device employing either its own interface or the receiver’s. And it charges the device while it’s in use. Sony no longer provides the wired dock and Apple-compatible USB cable that came with the STR-DN1020, though you’re at liberty to add a dock with generic audio/video outputs. The receiver is compatible with all iPhones and iPod touches, iPod nanos except for the first generation, and the iPod classic. The iPad tablet is not supported. At press time, the 5G iPhone and other new lines had just been introduced.
Girding for Wireless
Enabling AirPlay and Bluetooth was easy. For AirPlay, my iPod touch, playing iTunes, detected the receiver through my home network and I OK’d it with a tap on the touchscreen. Without looking at the manual, I was able to run the Bluetooth pairing process for the receiver and my cheap cell phone (my telephonic needs are simple). I just went into the Bluetooth menus on both devices and introduced them: Receiver, meet phone. Phone, meet receiver. I could have saved myself some trouble and avoided the receiver GUI (graphic user interface) by just holding down the remote’s Bluetooth button. The STR-DN1030 supports Bluetooth version 2.1 + EDR with profiles A2DP and AVRCP 1.3.
One of the most pleasing features of both Bluetooth and AirPlay is that they’ll power up the receiver and select the right input when activated from the mobile device. However, for this to work, I had to go into the receiver’s GUI and enable Network Standby (for AirPlay) and Bluetooth Standby (for the other guy). Not to worry: These little tasks are simple, and once done, they stay done.
Ethernet was just plug and play, as usual, but I struggled with Wi-Fi. The receiver detected my router, but keying in the password with the remote and GUI—cycling through multiple characters assigned to each remote button—was arduous. At one point, I had fumbled around so much that the receiver displayed a no-network error message and refused to accept further commands. I performed a full system reset—which erased all of my auto setup information—and ran auto setup again later.
Once the receiver got onto my home network, I established a DLNA connection between the receiver and my two router-connected desktop PCs. I noted that while Windows XP approves devices through the Windows Media Player, Windows 7 sent me to the Control Panel’s Network Sharing, which seems more logical. Both computers quickly recognized and approved the receiver.
The auto setup and room correction are Sony inventions. Activated from the menu, DCAC (Digital Cinema Auto Calibration) starts by asking you to set one of four calibration types: Full Flat, with no gimmicks (my choice); Engineer, to mimic Sony’s listening-room standard; Front Reference, matching all speakers to the characteristics of the front left and right; and Off, which detects speaker distances and types but does not perform equalization or phase matching.
The auto setup ran quickly, beginning and ending with a cheerful musical tone, and took about half a minute altogether. It whipped through most of the speakers pretty fast but took its time with the subwoofer. As usually happens, it detected my speakers as large, and I reset them to small with an 80-hertz cross- over. In passing, I noticed that dynamic range compression was set on, to a light setting, and I turned that off.